Posted May 25, 2017
Things that were true on May 25, 1977, when “Star Wars” – George Lucas’ film masterpiece – was born: Jimmy Carter was president, Billy Martin was manager of the Yankees, a gallon of gasoline cost 62 cents ($1.94 in today’s dollars) and, just a few years removed from the 1973 oil embargo, America’s energy future looked pretty uncertain.
“Star Wars” certainly was a great diversion from the challenges of the day. To say audiences loved the picture is an understatement, on the order of observing that Darth Vader had anger issues. The $11 million film earned more than $780 million worldwide and still ranks No. 11 all-time at the box office. It won seven Academy Awards and was nominated for four more. It germinated a movie franchise that includes eight other films, with at least four more in the works, as well as television shows, books, toys, hair styles, fashion, jewelry and much more.
It’s engrained in the popular culture. People can be heard to say, “May the force be with you,” when they part company. Obi-Wan Kenobi is synonymous with cosmic wisdom. Kids still horse around with light sabers. Princess Leia, Han, Chewy, R2-D2, C-3PO and other characters infused the movie with an enduring magnetism. Just ask Luke Skywalker:
Yet, “Star Wars” is more than entertainment and pop culture. I’d argue that the film helped hold Americans’ interest in space exploration at a time when NASA needed little bump. It offered an important, if fanciful, vision of the possibilities of space – bridging the interlude between the United States’ last manned lunar landing in December 1972 and its first space shuttle launch in April 1981 (Columbia begins its 36-orbit mission, right).
Now, let’s loop the discussion back to energy, because energy makes space flight (real and imagined) possible.
As noted in this post, natural gas and oil are involved in everything from rocket fuel, to making the liquid hydrogen used to power the space shuttle, to space suits, to helmets, to the space craft themselves. As we move further and further into space, technologies like 3-D printing – most commonly using ABS and PLA plastic as printing filaments, both of which come from natural gas and oil – will be critical to producing needed items and equipment millions of miles away from Earth.
Natural gas and oil are transcendent as space fuels and components while also laying the foundation for the materials and products that make modern living more colorful, convenient, healthier, comfortable and efficient.
Energy powers our lives and empowers our futures – even a future that might look like “Star Wars.” Dreams, like those depicted in an iconic sci-fi film, come first. Then energy takes us to them.
So, happy birthday “Star Wars,” and yeah -- thanks for keeping us thinking of the stars.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Mark Green joined API after a career in newspaper journalism, including 16 years as national editorial writer for The Oklahoman in the paper’s Washington bureau. Mark also was a reporter, copy editor and sports editor. He earned his journalism degree from the University of Oklahoma and master’s in journalism and public affairs from American University. He and his wife Pamela live in Occoquan, Va., where they enjoy their four grandchildren.